The prevalence of health conditions associated with the Western Diet leads many nutritionists to wonder, “Where did we go wrong?” Perhaps part of the answer was the rush towards refinement and “white” foods, a departure from consuming the variety of heirloom whole grains that accompanied the human race for ages. The benefits of whole grains have certainly been making the headlines, and the search for healthier grains has led to the rediscovery of how unique grains, such as amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, teff and millet, can enliven the pallet and nourish humans in healthier ways.

ConAgra Mills has taken a lead in providing whole grains for the mainstream food industry. One of the company’s foremost products is Sustagrain, a proprietary, identity-preserved (IP), waxy, hull-less barley variety that offers both health benefits and functionality to fit formulators’ needs. For example, Sustagrain has more than 50% of its carbohydrates present as dietary fiber, and 40% of those are in the form of cholesterol-lowering beta glucan. This is equivalent to approximately three times the total dietary and soluble fiber of conventional whole oats. The FDA has approved a heart-health label claim for soluble fiber from barley foods, but the whole-grain fiber it offers is also beneficial for digestive health, blood sugar management and increased satiety.

For the food formulator, ConAgra Mills’ Sustagrain Barley is also able to satisfy application-specific needs, as it is available in both fine flour and quick-cooking flakes. This year, ConAgra Mills has announced two strategic partnerships for the international distribution of proprietary Sustagrain. Exclusive licensing and distribution agreements were reached in November 2009, with National Starch Food Innovation and the Caremoli Group, each with their own unique territory, marketing and product line authority. These partnerships make ultra-high fiber Sustagrain ingredients available to global markets for the first time. Caremoli has a license to sell stabilized, whole Sustagrain kernels, which are ideal for a wide variety of applications, including RTE soups, hot cereals, prepared entrées and side dishes. National Starch Food Innovation will distribute Sustagrain flakes and flour to European, Middle Eastern and African food ingredient markets. Sustagrain can be used to not only boost fiber content, but also to enhance the flavor, texture, appearance and nutritional composition of applications.

What ConAgra Mills can do with Sustagrain seems to be just the beginning of how it is revitalizing the use of more ancient and less-known grains. The company also has a line of Ancient Grains, available in whole kernels, single-grain flours and multi-grain blends. Formulators should look to using ancient grains, such as amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, teff and millet, in applications, because they are nutritious and have great taste and texture. For example, teff, which has a chocolaty taste, can be used in an apple pie crust; Ancient Grain inclusions add texture to sandwich breads; or, the addition of quinoa to pasta can give it extra protein content. pf

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